Following the introduction of performance standards for electronic charts in 1995, the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), the highest technical body of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), adopted an amended Chapter V (Safety of Navigation) of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). This came into force on July 1st, 2002.
Re-written Chapter V, under Regulation 19, outlines carriage requirements for shipborne navigational systems and equipment. The Regulation details that ECDIS will enable shipowners to meet the chart carriage requirements.
Under the revised Regulation, all vessels irrespective of type and size, must carry nautical charts and nautical publications to prepare and present the ship’s route for the voyage and to plot and check positions throughout the voyage. In addition, all ships must carry alternative, backup arrangements if electronic charts are used, even if they are only used part of the time.
Overhauled ECDIS Standards from the IMO and IEC
The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and the IMOs overhaul of ECDIS Standards under IEC 61174, the Testing Standard for Type Approval of ECDIS, mean that it’s imperative that shipowners have ECDIS installed before August 2017. Should a company not comply, the implications are serious. A flag state inspection could lead to significant financial penalties, or even detainment in official custody.
Performance standards for electronic charts: Resolutions from the IMO
Electronic Navigational Charts (ENCs) used by ECDIS, are vector charts that conform to International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) specifications. Vector charts are compiled from a database of individual items of digitised chart data, which can be displayed as a seamless chart. Used in an electronic navigation system, the data can then be reassembled to display the entire chart image. ENCs are intelligent, in that systems using them can be programmed to give warning of impending danger in relation to the vessel’s position and movement.
In 1995, IMO’s resolution A.817 (19), which was amended in 1996 by resolution MSC.64 (67), outlined backup arrangements in case of ECDIS failure, when ENCs are unavailable. The resolutions, relating to performance standards for electronic charts, were developed to further reduce risks associated with navigation. Further amendments were made in 1998 by resolution MSC 86 (70), to allow operation of ECDIS in Raster Chart Display Systems (RCDS) mode.
Navigational backup arrangements: The IMO allows operation of ECDIS in RCDS mode
ECDIS used in RCDS mode, uses scanned copies of paper charts, called raster charts, instead of ENCs. Issued by, or under the authority of, a national hydrographic office, raster charts do not offer a comparable level of data to vector charts and are used alongside electronic positioning data. Given that RCDS mode does not offer the full functionality of ECDIS, although it’s excellent to have as a back-up arrangement, the resolution states that shipowners must not rely on RCDS mode alone. Therefore, RCDS mode must only be used with a comprehensive portfolio of up- to-date paper charts.
Instead of relying on RCDS mode when ENCs are not available, most reputable shipping companies now opt to install a secondary ECDIS (known as a dual system), connected to an independent power supply and GPS position input.
ECDIS available from Martek Marine
S-57 - ed.3.1.2
S-52 - ed.5 (PresLib 3.4)
S-61 - doesn't support (Raster chart mode)
S-63 - ed.1.1.1
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